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Tide Pool

Updated on February 16, 2010

Imagine a tide pool.

Jagged rocks, miniature mountains. Submerged suburbia. Waves roll in, waves roll out. Barnacles cling. Sea anemones sway. Touch one in the center. A night flower closing, a million sticky petals. A newborn’s grasping fist, instinctual.

Crabs scuttle along the stone bed, a bowl that contains this city. Tiny fish dart, bits of shell decorate the floor. A long-gone clam. A spiral snail memory.

Lay on your stomach, watch. The sun is warm on your back, burns your hair. Taste the sea air.

Look at the way two crabs fight, their oversized claws clashing. A starfish attached to the floor. Colors, life. Remnants of death, new shells to try on. A scavenger has salvaged an old snail’s shell, delicate, pink. Dark eyes peer out beneath it, cautious.

How much intelligence is here? Who taught the barnacles to cling? The crabs to breathe underwater? These creatures understand their pond in the sea. They live within it, flower it with waving tentacles. The stones are their homes, the tide their seasons. Do they suspect that you, a human being, are looking down on them now? Could they understand what a human being is?

Could a crab conceive of King George, would an anemone grasp Buddhism? A snail, staring up at rows of books in a library, endless spines. Could he comprehend knowledge-in-words? Would his small eyes even see, or would the shelves be a blur? Does a starfish know that E equals MC squared? That Einstein had white hair? Do sliver fish, glinting and silver, understand the human biological system, nerves, blood, hormones, bones? Do they know that such a human biological system is looming over them now, inspecting their tiny city?

The intelligence in your mind is enough to baffle, stun, vanquish all of the life in this pool. The complexity of your thoughts, the vastness of your knowledge is far superior to that of these small, scuttling creatures. They are simple, surviving. They don’t know that the moon has craters, that it orbits the earth every twenty-seven days. They just feel its light, white. They don’t know that there are nine planets in our solar system, that Saturn has rings. They collect refuse and filter water, inhabit shells and live on microbes. They don’t understand that your pupils are contracting as you look at them now, a reaction to the bright sun, which is 93 million miles from Earth. How could they?

Look down on this tide pool. A contained world, unaware of the billions of worlds around it. Birds in flight. Ferries bobbing. Scholars studying in great universities. Tigers in Africa. Lamas in Tibet. Rockets orbiting distant planets, speculation of UFO’s. They have no idea.

Feel the sun pigmenting your skin. Ears turning pink. Freckles. Consider the tide pool. Does it ever make you wonder…

Who’s looking down on us?

*** For fun travel writing, check out my other website, at:


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